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The Tomato Gardener



A variety of vintage articles and posts on gardening, cultivating, and growing tomatoes. Most of the material is adapted from "Tomato Culture: A Practical Treatise on the Tomato", 1907; other material from public domain sites including the USDA.



Updated: 2016-10-19T08:09:48.496-07:00

 



Growing the Tomato Plant

2012-11-08T05:27:09.514-08:00

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Growing the Tomato Plant
To manage a crop, one must needs know the plant. To know the various characters of the tomato helps one to master its culture.

The tomato belongs to the night shade family, the Solanaceae of the botanist, along with the potato, tobacco, petunia, pepper, eggplant, night shade, jimson weed and many other plants useful and noxious.

The tomato is a warm-season crop, sensitive to frost but reasonably resistant to heat and drought, thriving under a wide range of climate and soil. A frost free season of seventy-five to ninety days will mature home garden tomatoes in useful quantities if good plants are set but over 120 days are needed for economical commercial production. Plant growing requires six to eight weeks previous to setting out-of-doors. Each fruit requires about six weeks from blossom to ripeness. The fruit ripens best for yield, color and quality when the weather is warm and sunny. Low temperatures without frost are not favorable for growth and prolonged conditions of this sort may "check" the plant and retard the response when higher temperatures come.

The tomato is sensitive to extreme day-length, setting fruit at 7 to 19 hours but not at 5 or 24 hours.

The tomato responds readily to fertilizers and to moisture, coming quickly into vigorous growth after unfavorable conditions, unless too badly stunted.

As long as moisture and nutrients are available and other conditions are favorable, a tomato plant will continue to branch and blossom and make fruit almost indefinitely. A pruned single stem plant in a greenhouse at Cornell once reached a length of over 40 feet during a year and a half of growth. Thus, it is really a herbaceous perennial grown in northern climates as an annual.

The plant branches freely at leaf joints but fruit clusters are formed along the bare stem,—a habit not common among plants. Some varieties are "determinate" in habit, sometimes miscalled "self-pruning," as branches only attain limited length.



Using Tomato Beds With a Hairy Vetch

2012-10-17T08:51:34.757-07:00

Excerpted from the USDA

The first step toward high tomato yields is taken in early September when you prepare permanent raised tomato beds. If you're trying this method for the first time, use an inoculum to establish the proper soil bacteria.

Seed the beds with hairy vetch, a winter-hardy legume that's becoming widely available. Do this about 2 months before winter freezeup. Seedlings will emerge within 1 week. By the time that frost arrives, plants will be 5 to 6 inches tall.

Above ground, these skinny little vines will form a mat. Underground, the root systems will all this time be growing into an extensive network. Foliage and root systems will be working together, above and below ground, to hold the soil firmly and stop erosion.

Below-freezing weather will cause the vetch vines to become dormant, but never fear—Spring reinvigorates growth.

Now that wasn't too tough. And the good news is, you won't have to do anything else until May.

By May, individual vines will be 4 or 5 feet long and form thick stands about 2 feet high. Now it's time to kill them.

Yes, I said kill them!

Determine your ideal tomato-planting time. The day before, go out and buy however many tomato seedlings you're prepared to cultivate.

Then mow the vetch (a high-speed flail mower is recommended) and leave the residue in place on the beds. For the next several months, the dead vines are going to form a nutritious organic blanket that will snuggle up to your tomato plants (keeping out weeds) and gradually break down into soil nutrients.

Tomorrow you'll transplant young tomato plants right through the mulch residue and into the underlying soil.

Moisture is vital, so you'll need to irrigate. Immediately after planting, install trickle irrigation lines on top of the vetch and 3 to 4 inches from the tomato row. Fix them in place with U-shaped wires.

Fertilizers? A good stand of vetch provides sufficient nitrogen to meet from half to all the nitrogen needed by tomatoes. As for phosphorus, potassium, and essential micronutrients, it's best to have your soil tested—and supplement according to the soil's specific needs.

In June, during the first month after mowing, expect the vetch mulch to suppress weed emergence. After that, as the decomposition of the residue advances, weed seedlings are likely to emerge.

One herbicidal application of 0.5 pound active ingredient of metribuzin per acre should do the trick, applied 3 to 4 weeks after transplanting. (Your nursery professional can help compute the quantity needed for small applications.) This application will also kill any regrowth from the mowed vetch plants.

By summer's end, your tomato plants will bear an abundance of fruit, the organic mulch will decompose to a fare-thee-well, and the year will have come full circle.

Mow the old tomato plants and leave them in the field to decompose like the vetch mulch.

Now it's time to reseed with... hairy vetch!



Best Soil for Home Gardening

2010-02-17T18:58:29.478-08:00

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Of the 10 largest yields of which I have personal knowledge and which ran from 1,000 to 1,200 bushels of fruit (acceptable for canning and at least two-thirds of it of prime market quality) an acre, four were grown on soils classed as clay loam, two on heavy clay—one of which was so heavy that clay for making brick was subsequently taken from the very spot which yielded the most and best fruit—one on what had been a black ash swamp, one on a sandy muck, two on a sandy loam and one on a light sand made very rich by heavy, annual manuring for several years. They were all perfectly watered and drained, in good heart, liberally fertilized with manures of proved right proportions for each field, and above all, the fields were put into and kept in perfect tilth by methods suited to each case; while the plants used were of good stock and so grown, set and cultivated that their growth was never stopped or hardly checked for even a day. These conditions as to soil and culture, together with seasons of exceptionally favorable weather, resulted in uniformly large crops on these widely different soils.

Here [at home] we seldom have a choice, but no one need despair and abandon effort, no matter what the soil may be, for it is quite possible to raise an abundant home supply on any soil and that, too, without inordinate cost and labor. Some of the most prolific plants and the finest fruits I have ever seen were grown in a village lot which five years before had been filled in to a depth of 3 to 10 feet with clay, coal ashes and refuse from a brick and coal yard. In another instance magnificent fruit was grown in a garden where the soil was originally made up chiefly of sawdust mixed with sand, drawn on a foundation of sawmill edgings so as to raise it above the water of a swamp.

Where one has to contend with such conditions he should make an effort to create a friable soil with a supply of humus by adding the material needed. A very few loads, sometimes even a single load, of clay or sand will greatly change the character of the soil of a sufficient area to grow the one or two dozen plants necessary for a family supply. In the two cases mentioned, the owner of the first named garden used both sand and sawdust to lighten his soil, while the second drew a great many loads of clay on his.



Damping Off

2009-11-20T11:57:29.888-08:00

Young plants in seed-beds often perish suddenly from a rot of the stem at the surface of the ground. This occurs as a rule in dull, cloudy weather among plants kept at too high a temperature, crowded too closely in the beds or not sufficiently ventilated. Several kinds of fungi are capable of causing damping off, under such conditions.

Preventive measures are of the first importance. Since old soil is often full of fungous spores left by previous crops, it is the wisest plan to use sterilized soil for the seed-bed. When the young plants are growing, constant watchfulness is required to avoid conditions that will weaken the seedlings and favor the damping off fungi.

Watering and ventilation are the two points that require especial skill. Watering should be done at midday, to allow the beds to drain before night, and only enough water for the thorough moistening of the soil should be applied. Ventilation should be given every warm day as the temperature and sunshine will permit, but the plants must be protected from rain and cold winds. Work the surface of the soil to permit aeration and do not crowd the plants too closely in the beds. If damping off develops something can be done to check it by scattering a layer of dry, warm sand over the surface, and by spraying the bed thoroughly with weak Bordeaux or by applying dry sulphur and air-slaked lime.



Fruit at the Least Expenditure of Labor

2009-09-09T06:23:01.838-07:00

When this is the desire, many growers omit the hotbed and even the pricking out, sowing the seed as early as they judge the plants will be safe from frost, and broadcast, either in cold-frames or in uncovered beds, at the rate of 50 to 150 to the square foot and transplanting directly to the field. Or they may be advantageously sown in broad drills either by the use of the pepper-box arrangement suggested on page 60, or a garden drill adjusted to sow a broad row. In Maryland and the adjoining states, as well as in some places in the West, most of the plants for crops for the canners are grown in this way and at a cost of 40 cents or even less a 1,000.

The seed should be sown so that it will be from ¼ to ½ inch apart and the plants thinned as soon as they are up so that they will be at least ½ inch apart. Where seed is sown early with no provision for protection from the frost it is always well to make other sowings as soon as the last begins to break ground in order to furnish reserve plants, if the earlier sown lots be destroyed by frost. Others even sow the seed in place in the field, thinning out to a single one in a hill when the plants are about 2 inches high. Some of the largest yields I have ever known have been raised in this way, but the fruit is late in maturing and generally the method is not so satisfactory as starting the plants where they can be given some protection, and transplanting them to the field.



Point Rot

2012-01-11T09:32:47.197-08:00

(image) This trouble, called also "blossom-end rot," and "black-rot," occurs on the green fruit at various stages of development, as shown above. It begins at the blossom end as a sunken brown spot,which gradually enlarges until the fruit is rendered worthless. The decayed spot is often covered in its later stages by a dense black fungous growth (Alternaria fasciculata (C. & E.) J. & G. syn. Macrosporium tomato Cke.), formerly thought to be the cause of the rot, but now known to be merely a saprophyte. Point-rot sometimes occurs in greenhouses, but is more common in field culture. It is one of the most destructive diseases of the tomato, but its nature is not fully worked out, and a uniformly successful treatment is unknown. It has been thought to be due to bacterial invasion, but complete demonstrations of that fact have not yet been published. The physiological conditions of the plant appear to be important. The disease is worst in dry weather and light soils, where the moisture supply is insufficient, and irrigation is beneficial in such cases. Spraying does not control point-rot so far as present evidence goes.



Tomato Plants from Cuttings

2009-08-24T17:45:59.983-07:00

Tomato plants from cuttings may be easily grown, but such plants, when planted in the open ground, do not yield as much fruit as seedlings nor is this apt to be of so good quality; so that, in practice, seedlings only are used for outside crops. Under glass, plants from cuttings do relatively better and some growers prefer them, as they commence to fruit earlier and do not make so rank a growth.

Seedlings can be most easily started and grown, at least up to the time of pricking out, in light, well-ventilated greenhouses, and many large growers have them for this specific purpose. Houses for starting tomato plants should be so situated as to be fully exposed to the sun and not shaded in any way; be provided with heating apparatus by which a night temperature of 60 and up to one of 80° F. in the day can be maintained even in the coldest weather and darkest days likely to occur for 60 to 90 days before the plants can be safely set out in the open field; and the houses should be well glazed and ventilated.

Houses well suited for this purpose are often built of hotbed sash with no frame but a simple ridge-board and sides 1 or 2 feet high, head room being gained by a central sunken path and the sash so fastened in place that they may be easily lifted to give ventilation or entirely removed to give full exposure to sunshine, or for storing when the house is not needed. Hotbed sash 3x6 feet with side-bars projecting at the ends to facilitate fastening them in place are usually kept by dealers, who offer them at from $1.50 to $3 each, according to the quality of the material used.

A hot water heating apparatus is the best, but often[Pg 50] one can use a brick furnace or an iron heating stove, connected with a flue of sewer or drain-pipe that will answer very well and cost much less. It requires but 6 to 10 square feet of bench to start plants enough for an acre, and a house costing only from $25 to $50 will enable one to grow plants enough for 20 acres up to the stage when they can be pricked out into sash or cloth-covered cold-frames in which they can be grown on to the size best suited for setting in the field. When a grower plants less than 5 acres it is often better for him to sow his seed in flats or shallow boxes and arrange to have these cared for in some neighboring greenhouse for the 10 to 20 days before they can be pricked out.



Downy mildew

2009-08-20T15:06:48.484-07:00

Downy mildew (Phytopthora infestans DeBy.), the cause of the late blight of potatoes, will attack tomatoes during cool and very moist weather, which greatly favors its development. Such outbreaks sometimes occur to a limited extent in New England and serious losses are reported on the winter crop in southern California, but the disease has never been troublesome in other sections of the country, as it cannot develop in dry or hot weather. It affects the tomato as it does the potato, forming on the leaves dark, discolored spots, which spread rapidly under favorable conditions, killing the foliage in a few days. The fruit is also attacked and becomes covered with the mildew-like spore-bearing threads of the fungus. Bordeaux mixture properly applied is an efficient preventive.



Tomato Fruit Worm

2009-07-17T13:44:22.768-07:00

The tomato fruit worm known as the bollworm of cotton and the ear worm of corn, is frequently the cause of serious trouble to tomato growers, especially in the southern states, due to its pernicious habit of eating into and destroying the green and ripening fruit. For its control it is advisable not to plant tomatoes in proximity to old corn or cotton fields, nor should land be used in regions where this species is abundant until it has been fall or winter plowed. Sweet corn planted about the field before the tomatoes are set will serve as a lure for the parent moths to deposit their eggs, corn and cotton being favorite foods of this species and preferred to tomatoes. The fruit worm feeds to a certain extent on the foliage before penetrating the fruit, and it is possible to keep it in subjection by spraying with arsenicals as advised for the flea-beetles. It is suggested that arsenate of lead, being more adhesive than other arsenicals, should be used for the first sprayings, beginning when the fruit commences to form, repeating once or twice as found necessary, and making a last spraying with Paris green within a few days of ripening. This last poison will readily wash off and there is no danger whatever of poisoning to human beings, as has been conclusively proved in numerous similar cases. For the perfect success of this remedy the last spraying is essential, as those who have sprayed with an arsenical and have reported only partial good results have discontinued within about two weeks of the time of the ripening of the first fruit.



Cutworms

2009-07-17T13:41:49.460-07:00

(image) Of insects most to be feared and of those which attack the plants when they are first set out are cutworms of various species. The grower is as a rule quite too familiar with these insects, and no description of their methods is necessary, beyond the statement that they cut off and destroy more than they eat and re-setting is frequently necessary. The best remedy is a poisoned bait, prepared by dipping bunches of clover, weeds, or other vegetation in a solution of Paris green or other arsenical, 1 pound to 100 gallons of water. These baits are distributed in small lots over the ground before the plants are set, the precaution being observed that the land is free for two or three weeks from any form of vegetation. This will force the hungry "worms" to feed on the baits, to their prompt destruction. A bran-mash is also used instead of weeds or clover, and is prepared by combining one part by weight of arsenic, one of sugar, and six of sweetened bran, with enough water added to make a mash. The baits are renewed if they become too dry, or they can be kept moist by placing them under shingles or pieces of board.



Western blight (Yellows)

2009-07-17T08:30:03.889-07:00

In the North Pacific and Rocky Mountain states, serious losses are annually caused by a disease apparently unlike any eastern trouble. It is marked by a gradual yellowing of the foliage and fruit. Development is checked, the leaves curl upward and the plant dies without wilting. The nature and cause of this disease is as yet unknown. It appears to be worst on new land. Experiments that have been made indicate that in older cultivated fields thorough preparation of the soil, manuring and cultivation, combined with care in transplanting to avoid injuring the roots and checking growth, will greatly restrict the spread of this blight.



Cloth Covers for Tomato Beds

2009-06-21T07:37:16.049-07:00

(image) Cloth covers for beds should be made of heavy, unbleached sheeting or light duck, and it is better that the selvage run up and down the bed rather than lengthwise. The cloth is torn into lengths of about 13 feet and then sewn together with a narrow double-stitched flat seam so as to form a sheet 13 feet wide and about 8 inches longer than the bed. The edges are tacked every foot to the strips about 2 inches wide by 7/8 inch thick with beveled outside edges and laid perfectly in line. A second line of strips is then nailed to the first so as to break joints with it and so that the two will form a continuous roller about a foot longer than the bed with the edge of the curtain firmly fastened in its center. The center of the curtain is secured to the central ridge of the bed by strips of lath. When rolled up, the rollers are held in place by loops of rope around their ends and when they are down they are held by similar loops to the notched tent-pins driven into the ground or to wooden buttons fastened to the sides and ends of the frame.

Cloth covers are sometimes dressed with oil, but this is not to be recommended, though it is an advantage to have them wet occasionally with a weak solution of copper sulphate or with sea water as a preservative and to prevent mildew. Such covers, well cared for, may last five years or be of little use after the first, depending upon the care given them. They can be made from 50 to 200 feet long and two men can roll them up or down very quickly.

When cloth covers are used the supporting cross-strips should not be over 3 inches wide nor more than 3 feet apart; sometimes the strips are made to bind the sideboard and ridge together by means of short pieces of hoop iron or of barrel hoop. These are so placed and nailed as to hold the upper edge of sideboards and of the central ridge flush with the cross-strips, thus forming a smooth surface for cloth to rest on and enabling one easily to "knock down" and remove the frames to facilitate the taking of the plants from the bed to the field and the storing of the frames for another season.



Hotbeds

2010-02-17T18:59:34.545-08:00

(image) Plants can be advantageously started and even grown on to the size for setting in open ground in hotbeds. In building these of manure it is important to select a spot where there is no danger of standing water, even after the heaviest rains, and it is well to remove the soil to a depth of 6 inches or 1 foot from a space about 2 feet larger each way than the bed and to build the manure up squarely to a hight of 2 to 3 feet. It is also very important that the bed of manure be of uniform composition as regards mixture of straw and also as to age, density and moisture, so as to secure uniformity in heating. This can be accomplished by shaking out and evenly spreading each forkful and repeatedly and evenly tramping down as the bed is built up. Unless this work is well and carefully done the bed will heat and settle unevenly, making it impossible to secure uniformity of growth in different parts.

Hotbed frames should be of a size to carry four to six 3x6-foot sash, and made of lumber so fastened together that they can be easily knocked apart and stored when not in use. They should be about 10 inches high in front and 16 or 18 inches at the back, care being taken that if the back is made of two boards one of them be narrow and at the bottom so that the crack between them can be covered by banking up with manure or earth. In placing them on the manure short pieces of board should be laid under the corners to prevent their settling in the manure unevenly. I prefer to sow the seed in flats or shallow boxes filled with rich but sandy and very friable soil, and set these on a layer of sifted coal ashes covering the manure and made perfectly level, but many growers sow on soil resting directly on the manure; if this is done the soil should be light and friable and made perfectly level.

In some sections, particularly in the South, it is not always easy to procure suitable manure for making hotbeds, so these are built to be warmed by flues under ground, but I think it much better where a fire is to be used that the sash be built into the form of a house. A hotbed of manure is preferred to a house by some because of its supplying uniform and moist bottom heat—and one can easily give abundant air; but the sash can be built into the form of a house at but little more expense, and it has the great advantage of enabling one to work among the plants in any weather, while, if properly built, any desired degree of heat and ventilation can be easily secured. Except when very early ripening fruit is the desideratum, plants started with heat but pricked out and grown in cold-frames without it, but where they can be protected during cold nights and storms, will give better results than those grown to full size for the field in artificial heat.



Tomato Gardener: Growing for Canning

2009-06-03T06:54:15.987-07:00

Growing for canning has many advantages over growing for market. Some of these are that it is not necessary to start the plants so early, that they can be grown at less cost, and set in the field when smaller and with less check, and on this latter account are apt to give a large yield. It is not necessary to gather the fruit so often, nor to handle it so carefully, while practically all of it is saleable. For these reasons the cost of production is lower and it is less variable than with crops grown for market. Still farmers and writers do not agree at all as to the actual cost. It is claimed by some that where the factory is within easy reach of the field the cost of growing, gathering and delivering a full yield of tomatoes need not exceed $12 to $18 an acre, while others declare they cannot be grown for less than $40. Nearly one-third of this cost is for picking and delivering, and varies more with the facilities for doing this easily and promptly and with the yield than with crops grown for market. A large proportion of the crops grown for canning are poorly cultivated and unwisely handled, so that the average yield throughout the entire country is very low, hardly exceeding 100 bushels an acre. But where weather and other conditions are favorable, and with judicious cultivation, a yield of 300 to 800 bushels an acre can be expected. I have known of many larger ones.

A large proportion of the tomatoes grown for canning are planted under contract, by which the farmer agrees to deliver the entire yield of fruit fit for canning, which may be produced on a given area, at the contract price per bushel or ton. The canner is to judge what fruit is fit for canning and this often results in great dissatisfaction. To the grower it seems in many cases as though the quantity of acceptable fruit paid for was determined quite as much by the abundance or scarcity of the general crop as by the weight hauled to the factory. The prices paid by the factories for the past 10 years run from 10 to 25 cents a bushel, while canning tomatoes in the open market for the same period have brought from 8 to 50 cents a bushel, which, however, are exceptional prices. In all but two of the past 10 years uncontracted tomatoes could generally be sold, in most sections, for more than was paid on contract. I have given the price a bushel, though canning tomatoes are usually sold by the ton. The cost of the product of a well-equipped cannery is divided about as follows: fruit, 30 per cent.; handling, preparing and processing the fruit, 18 per cent.; cost of cans, labels, cases, etc., 43 per cent.; labeling, packing and selling, 0.035 per cent.; incidentals, 0.055 per cent.



Growing and Saving Commercial Seed

2009-05-13T08:15:36.608-07:00

The ideal way is for the seedsman to grow and select seed and give this stock seed to farmers who plant in fields and cultivate it, much as is recommended for canning, and save seed from the entire crop, the pulp being thrown away. Only a few pickings are necessary and the seed is separated by machines worked by horse power at small cost, often not exceeding 10 cents a pound. They secure from 75 to 250 pounds per acre, according to the variety and crop, and the seedsmen pay them 40 cents to $1 a pound for it. Some of our more careful seedsmen produce all the seed they use in this way; others buy of professional seed growers, who use more or less carefully grown stock seed. In other cases when the fruit is fully ripe it is gathered, and the seeds, pulp and skins, are separated by machinery; the seed is sold to seedsmen, the pulp made into catsup, and only the skins are thrown away. Still others get their supply by washing out and saving the seed from the waste of canneries. Such seed is just as good as seed saved from the same grade of tomatoes in any other way, but the fruit used by the canneries is, usually, a mixture of different crops and grades, and even of different varieties, and consequently the seed is mixed and entirely lacking in uniformity and distinctness of type.

Generally from 5 to 20 per cent. of the plants produced by seed as commonly grown either by the farmer himself or the seedsmen, though they may be alike in more conspicuous characteristics, will show varietal differences of such importance as to affect more or less materially the value of the plant for the conditions and the purposes for which it is grown. In a book like this it is useless to attempt to give long varietal descriptions even of the sorts commonly listed by seedsmen, since such descriptions would be more a statement of what the writer thought seed of that variety should be rather than of what one would be likely to receive under that name.



Edema

2009-07-09T19:16:01.852-07:00

Under certain conditions plants in greenhouses or even in the open field, may absorb water through the roots faster than it can be transpired through the leaves, with the result that dropsical swellings or blisters occur on the leaves and more succulent stems. There is also a deformation of the foliage, much like the leaf-curl produced by over-feeding. This trouble, known as edema, occurs when the soil is warmer than the air, or during periods of moist, warm, cloudy weather, which checks transpiration. The grower should cease pruning, and withhold water, and in the field cultivate deeply. In the greenhouse, adequate ventilation should be given, keeping the house dry rather than moist.



Heat and Ventilation

2009-02-26T16:29:22.381-08:00

The plant thrives best out of doors in a dry temperature of 75 to 85° F., or even up to 95° F., if the air is not too dry and is in gentle circulation. The rate of growth diminishes as the temperature falls below 75° until at 50° there is practically no growth; the plant is simply living at a poor dying rate and if the growth, particularly in young plants, is checked in this way for any considerable time they will never produce a full crop of fruit, even if the plants reach full size and are seemingly vigorous and healthy.

The plant is generally killed by exposure for even a short time to freezing temperature, though young volunteer plants in the spring are frequently so hardened by exposure that they will survive a frost that crusts the ground they stand in; but such exposure affects the productiveness of the plant, even if it subsequently makes a seemingly vigorous and healthy growth. Under glass, plants usually do best in a temperature somewhat lower than is most desirable out of doors. I think this is due to the inevitable obstruction of the sunlight and the lack of perfect ventilation.



Grape Tomatoes

2009-02-23T06:13:50.891-08:00

(image) Universally regarded as a distinct species. Plant strong, growing with many long, slender, weak branches which are not so hairy, viscid, or ill-smelling, and never become so hard or woody as those of the other species. The numerous leaves are very bright green in color, leaflets small, nearly entire, with many small stemless ones between the others. Fruit produced continuously and in great quantity on long racemes like those of the currant, though they are often branched. They continue to elongate and blossom until the fruit at the upper end is fully ripened. Fruit small, less than ½ inch in diameter, spherical, smooth and of a particularly bright, beautiful red color which contrasts well with the bright green leaves, and this abundance of beautifully colored and grace fully poised fruit makes the plant worthy of more general cultivation as an ornament, though the fruit is of little value for culinary use. This species, when pure, has not varied under cultivation, but it readily crosses with other species and with our garden varieties, and many of these owe their bright red color to the influence of crosses with the above species.



Mosaic disease

2009-02-21T09:29:26.608-08:00

The tomato is occasionally subject to a trouble allied to the mosaic disease of tobacco. It is characterized by a variegation of the leaves into light and dark green areas, usually accompanied by distortion and reduction in size. In severe cases a whole field may become worthless. While the nature of this malady is not fully understood, it is known to be due to a disordered nutrition of the young leaf-cells. It can be produced by severe pruning or by mutilation of the roots in transplanting, both of which should be carefully avoided. It is more likely to occur in seedlings that have made a soft, rapid growth on account of an excess of nitrogenous fertilizer or too high temperature. Close, clayey soils, on account of their poor physical condition, also favor the development of the disease after transplanting.



Tomato Gardener: Using a Trellis in a Home Garden

2009-03-23T15:11:23.970-07:00

In the home garden trellising and pruning are often very desirable, as they enable us not only to produce more fruit in a given area but of better quality. Many forms of trellis, have been recommended. Where the plants are to be pruned as well as supported, as they should always be in gardens, there is nothing better than the single stake, as described above. For a trellis without pruning, one to three stout hoops supported by three stakes so as to surround the plant which is allowed to grow through and fall over them, or two or more parallel strips supported about a foot from the ground on each side of a row of plants answer the purpose, which is simply to keep the plant up from the ground and facilitate the free circulation of the air among leaves and fruit.

I have seen tomatoes grown very successfully by the side of an open fence. Two stakes were driven into the ground about 6 inches from the fence and the plant, but slanting outward and away from each other. The tops of the stakes were fastened to the fence by wooden braces, and then heavy strings fastened to the fence around the stakes and back to the fence, the whole with the fence forming a sort of inverted pyramidal vase about 3 feet across at the top. In this the plant was allowed to grow, but it would be essential to success that the fence be an open one.



Tomatoes and Sunlight

2009-04-09T09:57:50.231-07:00

Abundant and unobstructed sunlight is the most essential condition for the healthy growth of the tomato. It is a native of the sunny South and will not thrive except in full and abundant sunlight. I have never been able to grow good tomatoes in the shade even where it is only partial. The entire plant needs the sunlight. The blossoms often fail to set and the fruit is lacking in flavor because of shade, from excessive leaf growth, or other obstruction.

The great difficulty in winter forcing tomatoes under glass in the North comes from the want of sunlight during the short days of the winter months. Were it not for the short winter days of the higher latitudes limiting the hours of sunshine, tomatoes could be grown under glass in the northern states to compete in price, when the better quality of vine-ripened fruits is considered, with those from the Gulf states. Growers are learning that tomatoes can be profitably grown under glass during the longer spring days, and consumers are beginning to appreciate the superior quality of fruit ripened on the vine over that picked green and ripened in transit. At no time is this need of abundance of light of greater importance than when the plants are young and, if they fail to receive it, no subsequent favorable conditions will enable them to recover fully from its ill effects. It is not so much the want of room for the roots as of light for the leaves that makes the plants which have been crowded in the seed-beds so weak and unprofitable.



Tomato Plant Blossoms

2009-02-13T07:52:36.447-08:00

(image) The inflorescence of the tomato is usually abundant and it is rare that a plant does not produce sufficient blooms for a full crop. The flowers are perfect as far as parts are concerned and in bright, sunny weather there is an abundance of pollen, but sunlight and warmth are essential to its maturing into a condition in which it can easily reach the stigma. The structure and development of the flower are such that while occasionally, particularly in healthy plants out of doors, the stigma becomes receptive and takes the pollen as it is pushed out through the stamen tube by the elongating style, it is more often pushed beyond them before the pollen matures, so that the pollen has to reach the stigma through some other means. Usually this is accomplished by the wind, either directly or through the motion of the plants.

Under glass it is generally necessary to assist the fertilization either directly by application or by motion of the plant, this latter only being effective in the middle of a bright sunny day. In the open ground in cold, damp weather the flowers often fail of fertilization, in which case they drop, and this is often the first indication of a failing of the crop on large, strong vines. I have known of many cases where the yield of fruit from large and seemingly very healthy vines was very light because continual rains prevented the pollenization of the flowers. Such failures, however, do not always come from a want of pollen but may result from an over or irregular supply of water either at the root or in the air, imperfectly balanced food supply, a sapping of the vitality of the plants when young, or from other causes. Insects rarely visit tomato flowers and are seldom the means of their fertilization.



Leaf Curl

2009-02-12T14:01:07.598-08:00

The effect of pruning is to stimulate growth and to increase the size of the leaves, the effort of the plant being to maintain a balance between roots and foliage. With rapidly growing plants, especially in the greenhouse and garden where both high manuring and pruning have been practiced, more or less curling and distortion of the leaves may result without developing into serious trouble if the grower takes the hint and modifies his methods so as to permit a more balanced growth. On the other hand, the ill effects of over-feeding and pruning may reach a point where the plant is seriously crippled.



Plant Roots

2009-02-11T06:56:27.081-08:00

The roots of the tomato plant, while abundant in number, are short and can only gather food and water from a limited area. A plant of garden bean, for instance, is not more than half the size of one of the tomato, but its roots extend through the soil to a greater distance, gather plant food from a greater bulk of soil, seem better able to search out and gather the particular food element which the plant needs than do those of the tomato. This characteristic of the latter plant makes the composition of the soil as to the proportion of easily available food elements of great importance. Tomato roots are also exceedingly tender and incapable of penetrating a hard and compact soil, so that the condition of the soil as to tilth is of greater importance with regard to tomatoes than with most garden vegetables.

Another characteristic of the tomato roots is that the period of their active life is short. When young they are capable of transmitting water and nutritive material very rapidly, but they soon become clogged and inefficient to such an extent as to result in the starvation and death of the plant. If the branches of such an exhausted plant be bent over and covered with earth they will frequently start new roots and produce a fresh crop of fruit, or if plants which have made a crop in the greenhouse be transplanted to the garden and cut back, a new set of roots will often develop and the plant will produce a second crop of fruit which, in amount, often equals or exceeds the first one. But such growths come only from new roots springing from the stem—never from an extension of the old root system.



Growing Tomatoes in a Hotbed

2009-02-10T09:43:56.434-08:00

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Tomato plants can be advantageously started and even grown on to the size for setting in open ground in hotbeds. In building these of manure it is important to select a spot where there is no danger of standing water, even after the heaviest rains, and it is well to remove the soil to a depth of 6 inches or 1 foot from a space about 2 feet larger each way than the bed and to build the manure up squarely to a height of 2 to 3 feet. It is also very important that the bed of manure be of uniform composition as regards mixture of straw and also as to age, density and moisture, so as to secure uniformity in heating. This can be accomplished by shaking out and evenly spreading each forkful and repeatedly and evenly tramping down as the bed is built up. Unless this work is well and carefully done the bed will heat and settle unevenly, making it impossible to secure uniformity of growth in different parts.

Hotbed frames should be of a size to carry four to six 3x6-foot sash, and made of lumber so fastened together that they can be easily knocked apart and stored when not in use. They should be about 10 inches high in front and 16 or 18 inches at the back, care being taken that if the back is made of two boards one of them be narrow and at the bottom so that the crack between them can be covered by banking up with manure or earth. In placing them on the manure short pieces of board should be laid under the corners to prevent their settling in the manure unevenly. I prefer to sow the seed in flats or shallow boxes filled with rich but sandy and very friable soil, and set these on a layer of sifted coal ashes covering the manure and made perfectly level, but many growers sow on soil resting directly on the manure; if this is done the soil should be light and friable and made perfectly level.


In some sections, particularly in the US South, it is not always easy to procure suitable manure for making hotbeds, so these are built to be warmed by flues under ground, but I think it much better where a fire is to be used that the sash be built into the form of a house. A hotbed of manure is preferred to a house by some because of its supplying uniform and moist bottom heat—and one can easily give abundant air; but the sash can be built into the form of a house at but little more expense, and it has the great advantage of enabling one to work among the plants in any weather, while, if properly built, any desired degree of heat and ventilation can be easily secured. Except when very early ripening fruit is the desideratum, plants started with heat but pricked out and grown in cold-frames without it, but where they can be protected during cold nights and storms, will give better results than those grown to full size for the field in artificial heat.